Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 31, 2012
 


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Volume 4, Number 44                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

We start this weeks edition of “RTT” in a sad-note, as it was learned that our friend veteran New England auto racing journalist Charlie Mitchell passed-away last week. Working for the Norwalk Hour for many years and inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2004, he was considered the dean of motorsports writers in our region. Charlie was a friend to many in the sport and will be sorely-missed. Our heartfelt condolences are offered to his family and many friends. On the agenda and approaching quickly, twenty racing pioneers considered central to the success of the sport in New England during its formative era will be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Sunday, November 18 at the Speedway Clubhouse located on the grounds of the Thompson International Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut. Doors open at 10:00 am, with dinner to be served at 1:00. Tickets for the Pioneers Induction Ceremony are economically-priced at $35.00. Order forms may be downloaded from the NEAR website at www.near1.com Purchase deadline is November 1. No tickets will be available at the door. Payment is to be sent to NEAR Pioneer Banquet, Box 172, Milldale, Connecticut, 06467. For additional information, contact NEAR President Val LeSieur at 508.238.7797 or email vallesieur@aol.com. Coming up even-sooner on Saturday evening November 10 the New England Antique Racers (NEAR), present their annual Movie Party at the Dante Club, 1198 Memorial Ave in West Springfield, Mass. (across from the Big E Fairgrounds). Admission is just $15.00 with tickets available at the door. Things get underway at 6:00 PM. The Movie Party is the primary fundraiser for the club. This year’s proceeds will go to funding maintenance on the van that houses the NEAR Mobile HOF Museum which will be on display outside the Dante Club for the evening. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

More Mid-Week Meanderings…..

Captured here behind the controls of the Suffield #5 on the former Riverside Park’s old 1/5-miler is 1951 track champion, Benny Germano. Once the flagship speedway of the all powerful Tattersall-governed United Stock Car Racing Club, Germano competed against the very-best in the business to garner his title. Names like Krebs, Tappett, Flemke, Maggiacamo, Dixon, & Humiston come-to-mind. It was indeed, a star-studded field each & every week. To win a United championship in 1951 meant accomplishing something truly-extraordinary. Before NASCAR’s infiltration of New England (which for all intents & purposes really began at Norwood Arena), UNITED was king in this region. Germano scored a career-total of 17 Riverside feature victories, the first in 1950, the final in 1959. (Shany Photo).

Seen here during the 1960s during a coupe-era outing at Joe Tinty’s former Plainville Stadium is a young Frank Manafort. Associated primarily with that ultra-competitive Connecticut ¼-miler where he experienced great success garnering several championships, Manafort was a top New England modified competitor from the mid-60s to the early-70s. He retired from the sport to help run the family business, but in later years returned to compete in the Legends division where he continued winning. Frank is now fielding a dirt midget on the USAC/DMA Circuit and a NEMA Lite which was driven to win win by Keith Rocco this year in his first outing in a Midget.  (Faust Photo, R.A. Silvia Archives)

One of the true pioneers of the New England modified scene, Buddy Krebs was also among the greatest racers to ever strap-in behind the wheel, especially at Massachusetts’ former Riverside Park Speedway as captured here. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2000, he started racing in 1947 and before it was over, won an estimated two-hundred features while competing in modifieds, sportsman, and Grand Nationals. Among his accomplishments were six Riverside 500 victories – a record never broken. Known primarily for his feats during the Tattersall/United era, he won at virtually all the tracks that once dotted the New England landscape including the late Plainville and Candlelight Stadiums in Connecticut, and Millers Falls and Westboro Speedways in Massachusetts. A founding member of the New England Antique Racers, Buddy passed-away in January of 2006 at 74. (Shany Photo).

This coupe-era shot captures the late Kenny Shoemaker ready-to-roll during the early days of the pavement at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. To list the number of victories and top car-owners that he drove for during his heyday would simply take more space than this weekly column allows. “The Shoe” is justifiably an inductee of several stock car racing Hall of Fames. Kenny passed-away in 2001 leaving-behind a huge legion of fans and fellow competitors that recall him as one of the most exciting drivers to have-ever graced a Northeastern speedway, dirt or pavement. For an in-depth look at Kenny’s storied career, visit our friend Lew Boyd’s Coastal 181 Publishing at www.coastal181.com and pick-up a copy of “They Called Me The Shoe.” (Shany Photo).

It’s the 1950s and captured here trackside at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl with some admiring small-fry is the late Dick Beauregard, one of the biggest names in the early history of the track affectionately-known by locals as the “shoreline oval.” Though his career was reasonably-brief by conventional standards, this guy had a huge-impact on the Speedbowl. Twice a Modified titlist (1952 & 62), his occasionally controversial driving-style won-over a legion of fans, along with a few detractors among his fellow competitors. A true “hammer-down” racer, his retirement in 1962 after only a decade yielded 62 victories in both the Modified & Non Ford divisions. (Shany Photo).

Here’s New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Ralph “Hop” Harrington at Stafford. Long one of the mainstays on the New England Modified circuit, Hop began his career in 1948 at the Kingston Rhode Island Fairgrounds piloting a nearly-stock 1934 Ford Coupe. From those humble beginnings came an estimated 300 victories, along with championships at places like Norwood Arena, Lonsdale, Kingston, and Westboro in naming just a few. A master car-builder also, Harrington was instrumental in the success of Geoff Bodine’s winning reign while piloting the modifieds of Dick Armstrong during the 1970s. Harrington retired from driving in 1969, but stayed busy in the sport as the builder of Armstrong’s “Nu-Style” Jewelry entries. (Shany Photo)

Captured here early during his career at Riverside Park, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Jerry Humiston was one of the premier-players within Harvey Tattersall’s United Racing Club. Three-times a track champion (1954, 59, and 61), he raced at The Park’ during what many consider the tracks most-competitive era. One of the most-popular and accomplished drivers of his time, Humiston’s prominent place in the history of New England modified racing is rightly-deserved (Shany Photo).

This is simply a great shot from the dirt-era at Stafford Springs. Chet Hunt raced this Ford Falcon-bodied mount among a sea of entrants sporting the then conventional coupe & coach tinwork of the 1960s. One of the more well-traveled competitors of his era, Hunt had been a Sportsman class champion at the historical Connecticut ½-miler. Back then, many cars had a unique look of their own as clearly-illustrated in this image. The “cookie-cutter” mentality had yet to become a factor in race car construction. (Shany Photo).

Here’s our pal Don Moon at Plainville Stadium. He competed at a number of Eastern modified haunts during his long career, compiling a stellar record of triumphs. As a member of the “closed-club” Southern New York Racing Association at Danbury Fair Racearena, he notched two victories in 1966, including the prestigious Conrad Memorial Trophy event. An admired car-builder, he’s also credited with helping jump-start the career of a young Reggie Ruggiero. With a broken-arm putting a premature end to his Stadium’ season, Moon placed “The Reg” behind the wheel of his potent #9 in 1975 resulting in ten feature wins for the young upstart. Today, Don is one of the people responsible in staging the ultra-successful Plainville Stadium Reunions every fall that are held in Berlin, CT. (Hoyt Photo, R.A. Silvia Archives).

Yet another shot from Plainville captures Stadium’ regular Ron VanNesse in a positively classic-looking coach culled from the 1973 campaign. VanNesse was among the top-drivers at Joe Tinty’s fast quarter-miler, one of five oval tracks that operated weekly in Connecticut when this photo was taken. Coaches always seemed to be in-style at “Tinty’s Place”! (Steve Kennedy Photo, R.A. Silvia Archives).

BONUS SHOT: Lastly, here’s a neat one for all of you Waterford Speedbowl aficionados. Captured here in a 1970s-era pitside shot is Nels Wohlstrom, a top-flight modified driver at the Bowl’ and other New England area tracks for many seasons. A very popular shoreline oval chauffer and graduate of the track’s Sportsman Sedan class, Wohlstrom notched a bevy of fine finishes while behind the controls of this racy Ford Pinto-bodied creation. Note the little “Rubber Ducky” on the roof; it was a light-hearted feature on all of Nels’ cars. (Dugas Photo, R.A. Silvia Archives).

That's it for this week. Email me at:

This Weeks Comments
Mark L said:

That coupe on the side of Hop looks like a 3 window Willys to me.

(3 days ago) Cal in clinton said:

got power 1 our ago here i am

(6 days ago) Bob Paine said:

Hope everyone is safe and sound and made it through the storm all right. Our prayers are with you.

(6 days ago) NELS said:

thanks for the memories dave! that car is actually beebes old car with new tin and chassis work. that people loved that rubber duck! lol!

(6 days ago) Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

Mike, that's not the 2x. The 2x was a 4 window coupe.

(6 days ago) mordino52@aol.com said:

dave in that shot of hop harrington on the outside there looks like my dad in the 2 x is it possible to confirm who that might be thanks mike

 
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